Food For Health

The Food For Health initiative united key players within the food industry, non-profit, private and public sectors to plan strategies aimed at reducing the total amount of fat eaten by adult Nova Scotians. The decision to focus on fat intake resulted from the findings of the Nova Scotia Heart Health Survey (1986) and the Nova Scotia Nutrition Survey (1993). The Food For Health approach focused on consumer education and skill development in addition to increased access to and availability of food with less fat.

The Food For Health Working Group undertook five activities:

  1. a) a retail point-of-purchase demonstration project, Shopping For Health;

  2. b) in conjunction with Kelloggs Canada, a campaign promoting the consumption of lower fat breakfast, Take Breakfast To Heart.

  3. c) a provincial survey which examined the availability, accessibility and cost of heart healthy dietary changes;

  4. d) a continuing education heart healthy cooking program for chefs;

  5. e) development of a position paper on consumer-friendly nutrition labelling, Let's Make It Clear.

Shopping For Health

Shopping for Health was a retail point-of-purchase pilot program implemented in three grocery stores over a ten-week period. The target audience was women between the ages of 25-39. Focus groups were held with the target to determine barriers and resistance points to lower fat food selection and appropriate program components, materials and message delivery. The program consisted of employee training, an information kiosk, grocery store tours, a 1-800 number, and taste-testing demonstrations.

Evaluation consisted of focus groups with the target population, interviews with store managers and store employees, feedback from grocery store tour leaders and food demonstrators, and pre and post program surveys of the target population. Results suggested that it is feasible to implement a nutrition education program in the grocery store in partnership with community and corporate sectors. The results also showed positive changes in knowledge and behaviour for a sample of women who shopped regularly at the stores where the program was implemented.

Take Breakfast To Heart

This was a month-long nutrition education program, co-developed by Heart Health Nov Scotia and Kelloggs. This education campaign was implemented during the month of October in 1993 and 1994. The objectives were to encourage Nova Scotians to eat breakfast on a daily basis, to eat a breakfast that is balanced, low in fat and high in fibre and to continue this healthy eating pattern throughout the day.

Components of the program included free community breakfasts, distribution of an education brochure to 230,000 homes province-wide, promotions in grocery stores province-wide, 30 second television promotions on the benefits of consuming a lower-fat breakfast, nutrition seminars led by registered dietitians and a variety of health promotion activities developed by community groups in the targeted sites where a free breakfast event was held.

Evaluation included a telephone survey of 400 Nova Scotians to assess awareness of the program and to ascertain impact in terms of consumers' attitudes towards this type of program; to determine if consumers are supportive of a partnership between a private company and a government agency and to determine if this program is a method by which consumers want to receive nutrition information. In addition, the planning and implementation process was documented at each targeted site with qualitative data collected from community coordinators and planning committees.

Based on evaluation results, it was concluded that a nutrition education campaign in partnership with a corporate sponsor is a feasible and acceptable endeavour. Feedback from persons involved in the planning and implementation of the program activities was supportive and in favour of continuation of the program in subsequent years. Telephone survey results showed a favourable change in attitude and behaviour related to the consumption of lower fat foods at breakfast and throughout the day for those people who were aware of the campaign.

Accessibility to Heart Healthy Foods

In Canada, standardized food baskets (Agriculture Canada's Nutritious Food Basket - NFB, and Thrifty Nutritious Food Basket - TNFB) have been used to examine food availability, accessibility and cost. However, the recent nutrition recommendations have not yet been incorporated into these baskets. The purpose of this study was to validate revised food baskets which incorporated the recent nutrition recommendations while considering the food preferences of Nova Scotians. Moreover, the revised baskets were used to examine the availability, accessibility and cost of heart healthy dietary changes in Nova Scotia. Data were collected in eighty-five stores from the eight counties surveyed within the Nova Scotia Nutrition Survey. Results showed that the revised "heart healthy" baskets were the most expensive in all regions of the province. The mean costs of all food baskets in the rural areas were significantly higher than the mean costs in towns and cities. Fewer stores in the rural areas than in the urban areas carried a sufficient variety of modified or "lite" foods to enable an accurate calculation of the cost of one of the baskets. Means costs for all food baskets decreased as store size increased.

Trimming The Fat: A Heart Healthy Approach to Cooking

This program was an eighty hour continuing education course for chefs and cooks that was developed in partnership with a private cooking school. Ten education sessions were developed and included topics such as the relationship between diet and CVD; Recommended Nutrient Intakes, Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating; macronutrients - fat, carbohydrates and protein; dietary cholesterol; nutrition labelling; BMI and healthy weights; vegetarian diets; and Heart and Stroke Foundation's Heart Smart Restaurant Program. In addition, each education session was followed by a practical cooking experience where approximately fifteen lower fat recipes were prepared and evaluated by the students.

Two pilot programs were implemented with fifteen chefs trained. Evaluation included a pre and post test on knowledge and attitudes, and post-program evaluation on program satisfaction. Evaluation results showed an increase in knowledge and attitudes for all students and a high degree of satisfaction with the program.

Let's Make It Clear

Let's Make It Clear is a position paper advocating reform of nutrition labelling in Canada. The paper recommends the use of labels which are consistent across products and simple and easy to understand. It suggests a format that makes the fat content of the product easy to find and one in which information is accessible to all socioeconomic groups and educational levels. The document was distributed to departments within Industry Canada and Health Canada, professional groups, interested businesses within the retail sector, provincial and federal representatives, and provincial government departments.

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